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Russian composer and pianist Sergei Prokofiev is one of my favorite musicians of all time. The first music of his I heard (many years ago in my teens) was the Third Piano Concerto. I immediately loved this work. Most of his music really connects with me especially his piano driven music. It must be my Slavic blood that gets stirred because his intense melodies and rhythms get to me on an almost genetic level.
Like many artist in Soviet Russia at that time he suffered at the hands of a cruel government. He was accused of being “decadent” and for a time he, like many others, was blacklisted. Ironically, Prokofiev died on the very same day as his nemesis Joseph Stalin. Therefore, the news of his death was once again relegated to the back pages of the press in Russia and around the world giving priority to the evil dictator who made his life hell.
Bulgarian pianist Alexis Weissenberg is one of my favorite pianists of all time. His readings of Rachmaninoff, in particular the “Preludes”, are fantastic.
Also check out the 1965 film recording of Stravinsky’s “Three Movements from Petrushka” (directed by Ake Falck). It is stunning and available for viewing on You Tube. It is a great performance and interesting film.
By far the best film I have seen in years is the 2014 British film Mr. Turner. Character actor Timothy Spall is spectacular in the title role of British painter J.M.W. Turner (1775-1851).
Turner was, in many ways, a revolutionary artist. Of course he was an eccentric and an irascible but lovable character much like Beethoven, who was a contemporary.
Though awards mean little to me I should point out that the film was nominated for four Academy Awards (best cinematography, best costume design, best original music score and best production design) and Spall won best actor at Cannes, London Film Circle, New York Film Circle and National Film Society of Critics. Which goes to show that occasionally merit is rewarded.
As much as musicians like Django, Monk, Joe Pass and Ravel have influenced my music, it may surprise some that Chopin has also been influential.
At first, when I was quite young, the attraction to Chopin was only due to the fact that he was Polish and I too have that heritage. In fact, it was a language my grandparents spoke. Later, I became very attached to his solo piano works. The Scherzos and Ballades especially caught my attention though the Etudes, Sonatas and Mazurkas also rate high with me.
Many of my solo guitar pieces (especially on the album Quintessence) are my humble attempts at applying my impressions of Chopin to plectrum guitar.